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January 29, 2013

Kelly talks Eagles, Te'o

Speaking to the media for the first time since late on Jan. 7 - following Notre Dame's 42-14 loss to Alabama in the BCS national championship game - Brian Kelly took part in a teleconference Tuesday morning from an unspecified location on the recruiting trail.

While Kelly briefly addressed the Alabama game, the need for the Irish to close the gap with the Crimson Tide, and various personnel in the spring (see transcription), he was asked mainly about his "interview" with the Philadelphia Eagles shortly after the national title game, and the bizarre Manti Te'o hoax.

"The interview (with the Eagles) was really a discussion that I had with Jeff Lurie of the Philadelphia Eagles and his leadership team," Kelly said. "The discussion was more about intrigue on my part.

"I had always been in the college game, and really did not have a good grasp of the NFL set-up. So for me, my head said, 'Let's be more informed as it relates to the NFL.' But my heart is in college football and with Notre Dame."

Kelly went so far as to "rule out" his future on the professional football level.

"Quite frankly, I wanted to answer those (questions) so I wouldn't have to go through this (again)," Kelly said. "We're going to win again next year and there are probably going to be teams that are going to have an interest (in me) coaching in the NFL, and I want to be able to tell them definitively that I want to coach in college.

"The intrigue was more that I wanted that information, so it's easy for me to make a decision on being here in the college game. I love Notre Dame and I love the college game. The intrigue was more just finding out about it so it's now easy for me to say no."

Kelly said he and athletics director Jack Swarbrick have been "in dialogue since Dec. 6" about a contract extension.

"We both want the same thing, and that is the long-term consistency of the program," Kelly said. "Jack and I are in lockstep in how we want to continue to build this program. So I feel really good about that."

Kelly said the interview with the Eagles was not a distraction for the national championship game because he wasn't sure in the days leading up to the game that the interview would take place.

"It wasn't an option for me because I wasn't even thinking about it and hadn't decided that was the direction I was going to go," Kelly said.

Kelly said he regretted the time lapse between public knowledge of the discussion with the Eagles and his released statement through the university - an elapsed time of about four days.

"If there's anything I would have done differently, it would have been to close that timeline relative to my interview and coming out with my statement," Kelly said. "I was on vacation with my wife. We were away. We weren't watching TV. But I should been more sensitive to the fact that there was this time period that had been going on and (I should have) released a statement much sooner."

Kelly said he told the recruits "up front that I'm committed to Notre Dame." He also spoke with the team on Sunday, Jan. 27, to reiterate his commitment to Notre Dame and that "I'm going to be their coach for some time."

The incredible story of Manti Te'o and the hoax perpetrated upon him was just as bizarre to Kelly when he first heard it as it was for everyone else. But everything he has heard from Swarbrick, Te'o, and all the key figures at Notre Dame who addressed that situation has been consistent with what Te'o relayed to him on Dec. 26.

"Everything that he told me, every little thing that has come out over the last couple of weeks is what (Te'o) told me," Kelly said. "I can only go on the information that he gave me versus what we're seeing out there. It was in lockstep."

Kelly said he didn't sense any problems with Te'o emotionally in the days leading up to the national championship game.

"Manti is a young man that continues to lead," Kelly said. "He went through a tough time during the year and we really didn't see anything there that would have set off an alarm that he was under so much pressure concerning the situation. I just didn't see it as we practiced leading up to the game."

Kelly admitted that Te'o didn't play his best game against Alabama but that the Crimson Tide had much to do with that.

"It's a lot to lay on the shoulders of somebody," Kelly said. "I think we can make a leap that maybe it did (bother him), but Manti would know for sure."

Asked if he agreed with the University's decision not to release information of the hoax before the game on Jan. 7, Kelly responded: "I really wasn't involved in that conversation. I was focused on coaching our team."

Kelly has spoken with Te'o about the situation. He also put a final exclamation point on the linebacker's career at Notre Dame.

"Manti will be remembered as a great leader on an undefeated team at Notre Dame," Kelly said. "He showed the way for how to be a great teammate. His work ethic, his commitment…all of those things.

"For me, he'll be, in my eyes, one of the very great teammates that I've ever had in 22 years of coaching. He was special to coach, and he did all the things great players have to do on a day-to-day basis, and we'll continue to hold him in that type of esteem."


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